Saturday, May 14, 2011

Invierno Porteño - Arrangement by Tei-Ho

Do they roast chestnuts in Buenos Aires? The young man smiling in this photo evidently thinks so. I could be wrong, but I believe that smiling young man provides arrangements of Piazzolla's works under the name of Tei-Ho or Teho which is perhaps the anglicized version of 啼鵬, his given name (although Google translate would suggest a pronunciation something more like Che Kung). Tei-Ho has a degree in music composition and is a multi-instumentalist whose instrumental mastery extends to include the bandoneón. He is a skillful bandoneónist with an authentic sound as can be seen in this video. He is clearly an admirer of Piazzolla's music.

Tei-Ho is also a musician who enjoys a challenge. Why else would he create an arrangement of Invierno Porteño for the unlikely ensemble of string quartet, two guitars and a harmonica? Today's video captures the world premiere (and given the unusual nature of the ensemble, perhaps the only performance) of the work in the Taipei National Concert Hall in December, 2007. The musicians are a notable bunch led by well known Japanese guitarist, Shin-ichi Fukuda and chromatic harmonica player, Yasuo Watani. The second guitarist is Shih-yu Liu. The string quartet is not identified but are clearly serious and talented musicians.

Tei-Ho's arrangement begins as normally as a classical piece with a harmonica lead could - sounding much like an arrangement which would flow from the pen of José Bragato, the original source of almost all of Piazzolla's quintet works converted to classics. Then at 2'18" into the work, Vivaldi enters the piece. Intertwining Vivaldi into Piazzolla has been fair game ever since Piazzolla himself added a little Vivaldi to the end of Invierno Porteño. Leonid Desyatnikov inserted Vivaldi into Piazzolla's other three seasons for Gidon Kremer and created a healthy revenue stream for himself as those have displaced Bragato's to become the standard orchestral arrangements. Tei-Ho skillfully escorts Vivaldi out of the piece a minute or so later. But, at four minutes, in an arranging masterstroke, Tei-Ho inserts the 1946 popular Christmas song by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. To me, this is marvelous musical humor but the musicians don't smile and the audience doesn't titter - I think they would in Chicago. Piazzolla resumes just at the point where Piazzolla injects Vivaldi and the piece flows to a beautiful ending. The ensemble gets well deserved applause and I applaud Tei-Ho.

As to roasting chestnuts in Buenos Aires - the answer is, they do (search for "chestnuts" on this page).

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